The world premiere of one of the must-see dance productions of the year is here & finally English National Ballet have brought it home to London. 'Giselle' is one of the most iconic classical ballets you could think of; but the ambitious, innovative and creative ENB are using internationally renowned contemporary dance choreographer, Akram Khan, to reimagine it.
A brief reminder for those whose dance expertise are a little rusty: Akram Khan is a bit of a big deal in the dance world. He's been on the rise since 2002 and his first full-length work Kaash. Khan also choreographed a section at the London 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony. You remember? When Emili Sande was singing Abide With Me? *searches YouTube*. He's also created work for the Pyramid stage at Glastonbury, so it's fair to say he's used to breaking barriers in dance.
Now, it doesn't matter if you are an expert in dance or not, everyone knows how highbrow ballet is and how it is rarely, if ever, broached by any other mediums than its own. So when English National Ballet (ENB) announced their plans for such a classical ballet to be reimagined by a contemporary dance artist, it was groundbreaking. This only serves to continue their vision of evolving the art form for future generations. If you need any further enticing at this point, it's worth noting the set and costumes are created by Academy-Award winning designer, Tim Yip (Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon).
The story of Giselle is that of a peasant girl who falls in love with Albrecht, a wealthy nobleman, disguised as a poor man to win Giselle's affection. When he's outed for being betrothed to another, Giselle is driven mad with grief and ultimately dies. Whilst mourning, Albrecht discovers Giselle's ghost on the threshold between life and death. The Wilis (ghosts of factory workers who seek revenge for the wrongs done to them in life), try to dance Albrecht to death, but breaking the cycle of violence, Giselle protects her true love and releases him into life. The Wilis leave with Giselle, and Albrecht is left alone with the knowledge that Giselle's love for him saved his life.
Ballet's often a more rounded experience when you can understand what's going on, so excuse the lack of a spoiler alert. Think of it as a living, breathing piece of art in which you are journeying upon. However, this isn't just another ballet. It feels like a look into the future of dance. Contemporary dance's reputation is higher than ever and with it momentarily taking over the ballet world too, it is only set to grow. So if you've never been to see dance before, this is unquestionably the perfect place to start. It will be talked about for years to come and its influence could even spread into the next couple of decades.
So, what is it like? For a ballet production, even with its choreographer, it is very contemporary based. It's dark and serious, as Akram Khan's work often is, and gives a whole new angle to a romantic ballet which has been performed as much as any other worldwide. The set is of course incredible, with an enormous wall that moves back and fourth, as well as rotating - at one point in Act II creating two levels to the stage. The music is mind-blowing, also. Created by Vincenzo Lamagna after the original score by Adolphe Adam.
So you need not waste another moment trying to imagine this reimagined ballet. It's on now and you can be there to watch it.
'Giselle' is co-produced by Manchester International Festival and Sadler's Wells. It will be touring again in 2017.